Funeral home covers expenses for homeless veteran’s burial

ST. LOUIS - Air Force Sergeant John Beard of south St. Louis passed away July 23 after a fight with cancer. He was 67. On Tuesday, the Patriot Guard, Beard’s wife, and many others gathered at the Michel Funeral Home.

“It’s phenomenal to think all these people came out to honor him and it shows what brotherhood in service does,” said Betty Beard, John’s spouse.

Calvin Whitaker, owner of Michel Funeral Home, met Beard through the AMVETS Riders just before his death. Beard might have been homeless and sick, but his spirit was contagious.

“We found out Beard was going to die of stage-4 cancer, so me and my wife decided to reach out and see if we could help them out,” Whitaker said.

The Whitakers performed the funeral services for Beard free of charge. They remembered meeting him for the first time and were taken aback by how John was eager to meet them knowing his time was short.

“We never served in military, but we love our country, love our vets,” Whitaker said. “Figured it was a small way to repay.”

Beard served in the Air Force from 1968 to 1971.

“I can’t thank him enough for being a Vietnam vet and, unfortunately, Vietnam took his life with cancer – Agent Orange,” Betty said.

John left home for two years. He’d also been in a homeless veterans program at Jefferson Barracks, where he met AMVETS.

“Like all of us, he had his bad times, but on his last breath he was amends with people and doing the right thing,” Betty said.